The Eleventh Man
In 1941, the Montana State College starting eleven all entered into military service. Each lost his life in that great effort. This is the spark that kindled Ivan Doig’s The Eleventh Man, an unforgettable saga that makes you wonder all over again at the vagaries of human nature.
The “eleventh man” is Bill Reinking, former left end and captain of Treasure State University’s 1941 undefeated “Supreme Team.” After Pearl Harbor the Supreme Team eleven answered the call to arms. Just as Reinking is about to earn his pilot’s wings, he is yanked from training and given a set of unexpected and unwelcome orders. He is to function as war correspondent for the military’s civilian information service. His assignment is to track the Supreme Team through the war, reporting on each man’s missions in the service of his country. He is told that the odds are that all but two of his teammates will make it.
The team soon meets its mortality quota, and Reinking realizes that some of the players are on far more dangerous fields than others. Tension builds as he sees more than the hand of fate remaking them into a Supreme Sacrifice Team. The climax is bittersweet, believable and sadly satisfying.
Riveting only begins to describe the war scenes from Guam to Antwerp and the all-too-human dramas of family, lovers, and friends. Doig’s narrative is as varied as the landscapes he describes—rugged and forceful, tender, lyrical at times. The Eleventh Man is a virtuoso performance. The story is rich in historical data, much of it new in World War II fiction. And for bibliophiles, the publisher’s quality binding and paper are a pleasure to handle. In every category this is a first rate book.